Heidi Stevens: ‘Margaret’ movie? Be still our beating hearts


By Heidi Stevens - Chicago Tribune



In news that is so pure and good I’m almost afraid to type it for fear of cursing it, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” might be made into a movie.

That’s right. One of the greatest feats in the history of publishing, “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” of young adult literature; the book that gave voice and solace to generations of adolescent girls the whole world over … on the big screen.

Maybe.

Recently, author/legend/hero/goddess Judy Blume (Margaret’s maker, if you didn’t know) tweeted to her 552,000 followers: “So which of my books, kids and/or adult would you want to see adapted for series or movie? I ask because I’m in LA meeting with many talented people. I think the time has come.”

The correct reply, obviously, is “all of them.” Plenty of her followers said as much.

The second best reply is “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret,” Blume’s 1970 story about a sixth-grade girl who struggles to fit in her new town without friends or a religion — everyone hangs out either at the Jewish Community Center or the YMCA, and her Catholic-raised mom and Jewish-raised dad swore off organized religion years ago.

Margaret tackles training bras, kissing, periods, middle school rumor mills, spirituality and friendship in a way that still, some four decades later, feels honest and true.

By the next morning, more than 1,000 replies had rolled in. “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” popped up multiple times. “Deenie” made a few appearances. “Summer Sisters” came up a lot. All of the “Fudge” books as a Netflix miniseries was proposed.

“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” is clearly a fan favorite, though. A sampling of replies:

“I love them all, but Are You there God … would be amazing.”

“Another vote for Margaret!!! Please please please!!!”

“Don’t make me choose!!! (but Are You There God? would be first choice)”

My favorite reply came with specific instructions: “Summer Sisters as a miniseries, Are You There God It’s Me Margaret as a TV show. No updating either. I want them set in the time they were originally written in — Margaret has to use those period belts or I will riot.”

I had the great good fortune of interviewing Blume in 2015 at the Chicago Humanities Festival. “In the Unlikely Event,” her novel based on the real events surrounding a string of plane crashes in the early 1950s, had just been released, and we talked about it (among other topics) in front of a sold-out auditorium at Francis W. Parker School in Chicago.

I can only describe the energy in the room that night as kinetic. Hundreds upon hundreds of women wearing “I (heart) Judy” pins. Screams of delight when she walked on stage. An hourslong line to have books signed afterward.

And I can only imagine movie theaters would buzz with that same energy if women had the chance to grab their friends, their moms, their daughters, their sisters, to watch Margaret writ large.

Are you there, God? It’s us, Judy Blume’s fans. We want her to talk to those LA folks about Margaret.

Amen.

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By Heidi Stevens

Chicago Tribune

Heidi Stevens is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Reach her at hstevens@tribune.com or on Twitter @heidistevens13.

Heidi Stevens is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Reach her at hstevens@tribune.com or on Twitter @heidistevens13.

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